Press release: for immediate use
13 November 2013: 12.10
Cameron faces Tamil ballot-box revolt
Pressure is mounting on prime minister David Cameron following his stubborn insistence that he will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Sri Lanka.
For their own domestic political reasons, including massive pressure from large Tamil populations, the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, and most recently Indian premier, Manmohan Singh, have pulled out of Chogm.
When David Cameron shakes hands with Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, two things will happen. Firstly, he will give a world stage to a regime which stands accused of war crimes and the slaughter of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009.
Secondly, he will send a message to hundreds of thousands of Tamils in Britain that their killed, disappeared, injured and traumatised families mean nothing to this government.
David Cameron’s vague call for an ‘independent’ review of war crimes in Sri Lanka is seen as nothing more than a cynical attempt to placate Britain’s 300,000 strong Tamil community – a large electoral bloc.
The feeling in that community is hardening, however. People are asking why they should vote for people who deal with such a brutal regime.
Manny Thain, joint national secretary of the Tamil Solidarity campaign said: ‘The memories are too fresh. The wounds run too deep. The Tamil population in Britain equals the numbers of Tamils held captive in open prison camps at the end of the war in the most disgusting and humiliating conditions. Why would any of them vote for political parties which give a world stage to Rajapaksa, or who remain silent in the face of their suffering?’
The next protest called by Tamil Solidarity will take place outside Downing Street on Friday 15 November, 4-7pm, coinciding with the opening day of Chogm. It will send a clear message that David Cameron and William Hague are not attending Chogm in our name.
The campaign continues to end the effective military takeover and settlement of Tamil lands in the north and east of Sri Lanka. And to end the relentless attacks on the democratic rights of people throughout Sri Lanka – the erosion of press freedom, attacks on trade union and political activists, and on human rights campaigners.
On the same day, our sister campaigns in Europe, India and Malaysia, as well as in Sri Lanka itself, will be organising similar protests.
For more information, interviews, etc, please contact:
Senan, Tamil Solidarity international coordinator: 07908 050 217
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity joint national secretary: 07974 794 695
The protest outside Downing Street on Friday 15 November will take place from 4-7pm. Jeremy Corbyn, MP, and Rani Moorthy, playwright, have already agreed to address the protest, alongside campaigners from the Tamil diaspora, representatives of a number of trade unions, and other organisations.
Paul Murphy, Socialist Party (Ireland) MEP, supports this day of action.
We will update media outlets as other named speakers confirm attendance.
The ‘Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel of United Nations Action in Sri Lanka’ (November 2012) said: ‘The [UN] Panel of Experts stated that “[a] number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. Some government sources state the number was well below 10,000. Other sources have referred to credible information indicating that over 70,000 people are unaccounted for.’
Taking discrepancies in census returns into account, however, many people now put the total of Tamils killed or disappeared around 100,000.
On 1 September 2013, Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, sharply criticised the Sri Lankan regime following a visit to the country, saying that it ‘is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction’.